Music TEDx

Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx message on surprise album

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Beyoncé must love surprises. Because late last night, she unexpectedly dropped her fifth studio album, Beyoncé, on iTunes. It’s what she’s calling a “visual album,” and it features 14 songs and 17 music videos — including a song about her daughter, Blue Ivy, and guest appearances from husband Jay-Z, pals Justin Timberlake and Frank Ocean and her Destiny’s Child compadres Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland. But the highlight of the album (and yes, we are biased): The song “***Flawless,” which samples the message author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered in a talk at TEDxEuston called “We should all be feminists.”

The song starts out with a sample of Ed McMahon of Star Search, announcing Beyoncé and her friends in the female rap group Girl’s Tyme back in 1992. From there, Beyonce croons — with strong language that will likely be objectionable to some — on the pressure women feel to be perfect and to think of marriage as the main goal of their life. Adichie’s words come in at 1:24, and form a beautiful second verse of the song:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves,
to make themselves smaller.
We say to girls,
‘You can have ambition,
but not too much.
You should aim to be successful,
but not too successful.
Otherwise you will threaten the man.’
Because I am female,
I am expected to aspire to marriage.
I am expected to make my life choices
always keeping in mind that
marriage is the most important.
Now marriage can be a source of
joy and love and mutual support.
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
and we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors –
not for jobs or for accomplishments,
which I think can be a good thing,
but for the attention of men.
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
in the way that boys are.
Feminist: the person who believes in the social,
political and economic equality of the sexes.”

Watch the full talk below:

And watch Adichie’s talk from TEDGlobal 2009, “The danger of a single story“: